- Definition of cornerstone content
- Steps to create a cornerstone article
- Tips for delivering great cornerstone content
- What cornerstone content can do for your brand
- Examples of successful cornerstone content
One of the most straightforward explanations of what cornerstone means is “something of great importance that everything else depends on.” For a brand looking to carve a niche in the content marketing market or increase customer engagement in the digital world, a cornerstone article can be the lifeline of their momentum.
Cornerstone articles don’t sweat the small stuff. They aren’t random blog posts. It’s the crème de la crème of brand awareness. It comprises all the top-notch cornerstone content (also known as pillar content) you require to improve readership and get more traffic to your digital assets.
Definition of cornerstone content
“Cornerstone content should be the content that is closest to the mission of your website. I think you should take some time to think about what it is you are doing and which posts or pages on your website are the most important. If you are to point three or four texts on your website, which texts would that be? I think you should extend and improve upon those pages and posts and really make the most out of these pages” – Marieke van de Rakt, Partner & CSO at Yoast
A cornerstone article isn’t about selling your products and services but rather about establishing confidence and trust in your brand; to portray your organization as a credible voice. By doing so, you ensure that a regular stream of readers visit your digital assets to consume the cornerstone articles you deliver. You would be significantly increasing the odds of them being interested in whatever you are selling through digital marketing.
That’s why it’s important to synchronize your cornerstone content articles with your growth plans and business goals.
Otherwise, you would be putting in a lot of time and effort to develop and promote cornerstone articles that don’t generate desired outcomes.
Diving deeper into the nooks and corners of cornerstone content
Think of your brand as a rock band. Cornerstone content is your ‘best of’ collection. And every article that goes in your cornerstone page should be worthy of being a rock star. Unless you plan your cornerstone content piece, bearing this in mind, the search engines wouldn’t be friendly to them.
The SEO Factor
Cornerstone articles and SEO should be best friends, as far as your content marketing strategy is concerned. Look at this way: SEO is about convincing search engines like Google that your brand has a credible voice before they take your content to readers’ device screens.
And let’s not get started on how difficult it is to rank for keywords that even have an iota of popularity on Google. You probably have been through the grind before – and you know how hard that cornerstone content journey to the top of search engines for your articles can be.
However, using the cornerstone content approach, you can lay the foundation that can ultimately make you a top contender on Google’s search engine for keywords that offer competitive differentiation. It turns your blog posts into catalysts for generating an unprecedented amount of web traffic.
Common features of a cornerstone content piece
- Long-form, informative, and insightful articles to create an immersive reading experience
- End-to-end a.k.a. all-you-need-know articles about a particular topic
- Aligned with organizational mission, vision, or growth objective
- Chockablock with cornerstone content competitive keywords that matter
Let’s look at some examples of cornerstone content:
- Blog posts or a series of articles
- Resource section of content pieces like e-books, how-to guides, or white papers
- Set of podcast episodes
- YouTube playlist of videos
Steps to create a cornerstone article
It takes more than a couple of steps to level up your cornerstone content marketing because that’s an ongoing journey. But if you’re starting a new website, you need to be aware of the milestones you must cross in your roadmap to delivering a flagship content piece.
Let’s say you’ve just created a new company and you’re looking to establish content creditability, here are the milestones to bring you up to speed.
Step 1: Conduct content research by discovering top-ranking content and high-performing competitor’s content
Step 2: Create a cloud of targeted keywords that resonate with user’s content expectations and align with business intent – make sure you target long-tail keywords and include a title tag.
Step 3: Create a collection of cornerstone articles based on these keywords
Step 4: Optimize the cornerstone article to meet relevant SEO criteria – add links in the body copy, use subheadings/media/bullet-points, and don’t forget to add call-for-action buttons.
Step 5: Assemble the cornerstone content pieces in a unified repository – preferably on your website
Step 6: Measure the impact of the cornerstone content pieces and adapt your cornerstone content.
As is the case with anything related to digital marketing, step 1 is the most vital because it sets a precedent on what’s to come.
How Social Animal can accelerate step 1 in your cornerstone article journey
Social Animal makes it is tremendously simple to get your hands on the kind of content your company needs to increase its digital marketing value. With Social Animal’s AI-powered content marketing features, you can narrow your search by domain, author, keywords, published date, or shared date. Or you can mix and match multiple search criteria to discover the ideal type of content.
Moreover, you can also unravel your competitor’s top content by quickly tracking down the best authors on their website and preferred social networks. Social Animal will help you better understand how they create and distribute content by understanding competitive keywords.
You get a dashboard that simplifies the research process and is updated every few hours with information that helps you stay ace your content marketing game. For instance, it can reveal competitor mentions, top trending articles for keywords, freshly-discovered influencers, and a whole lot more.
Find your competitor’s cornerstone content now
No credit card required. Sign up it for FREE!
Tips for delivering great cornerstone content
“If you’ve done your job correctly when selecting the focus, it will be perfectly natural to continue to cross-reference link to your cornerstone piece from within future posts as well. Don’t go overboard but do provide context when discussing advanced topics that require an understanding of the basics” – Brian Clark, Founder – Copyblogger
Creating cornerstone content is all fine and dandy, but if it were that easy – everybody would be successful at doing it, right? The fact is many companies are so eager to develop and promote content that they forget to measure the real impact. Even worse, they ignore the nuances involved in the process that ends up bringing the quality of the cornerstone content.
Importance of link structure
If you don’t provide the right link structure between your articles – you may send search engines on a wild goose chase. Cornerstone content pieces deserve a prominent place in your company’s digital assets – which is why internal linking takes precedence.
For example, they should have a link directing them from the banner on your website’s homepage to a particular cornerstone article or a repository of all the articles. If your Facebook page has been big on your customer engagement priority list, then pin a post that takes them to the hallowed grounds of your cornerstone content.
And that’s not all.
Since your cornerstone content strategy is in line (if not, it should be) with your business goals, you might post a lot of related content. In that case, you must create backlinks for your cornerstone articles that could provide the reader with something extra valuable from the overall engagement experience.
Don’t count your keywords before they hatch
“Your text and the ideas in your text should be totally unique. Of course, keyword research is essential. You just have to make sure you are using the words that your audience are using.” – Marieke van de Rakt, Partner & CSO at Yoast
Keyword analysis starts with knowing what type of value you expect the cornerstone content to provide. A good approach to ask yourself, “What will my readers learn – and of what use will your cornerstone articles be for their business?” Of course, if you’re going to race after the most popular keywords – your content isn’t going to take you far without coughing up some serious cash to even qualify for the race.
Once you identify the contextual keyword phrases, ensure that each piece of your cornerstone content has them.
How’s that headline?
Over the years, if not decades, many have opined in many newspaper editorial meetings about the importance of the headline. If you haven’t hooked the reader in 10 seconds, you just might have lost them forever. Things haven’t changed in 2020. One could even argue that 10 seconds is too long these days to make someone interested in your cornerstone content. You’ve perhaps 3 seconds before the reader decides that this article isn’t for them.
So, your cornerstone content pieces – whether a blog post, a video, or a podcast episode – must come equipped with powerful headlines. And it isn’t enough that you think it sounds compelling. Run it through a headline analyzer and change it until the headline gets a good score. Your cornerstone article will thank you for it!
Does size matter? Yes and no!
Long-form cornerstone content pieces get more traction. If you’re wondering how that explains the “3-second reading rule” mentioned in the previous point, here’s the low-down.
The headline’s a bait – it’s how you attract the reader. The actual content is the hook. That’s how you truly capture their attention.
Having said that, it doesn’t mean that your cornerstone content pieces need to be 5,000-words-long micro-researched articles or hour-long webinars. If you feel that your content is repetitive or uninteresting in places, chop it down. Even that means sacrificing some keyword strength. Because if the readers find your cornerstone content boring, it won’t take long before the search engines catch up.
“A cornerstone is something that is basic, essential, indispensable, and the chief foundation upon which something is constructed or developed. It’s what people need to know to make use of your website and do business with you.” – Brian Clark, Founder – Copyblogger
One place to find them all
As earlier discussed, it is crucial to create a single user-friendly repository of cornerstone content. For instance, if you add a landing page to your website that hosts a collection of cornerstone pieces – make sure that it acts as a table of contents. It should be easy to access and browse through – at their convenience of readers
Treat it like the Internet Movie Database of your company’s cornerstone content strategy. The reader should be able to navigate your cornerstone page with ease while finding more that will meet their criteria for a positive content-consumption experience.
These web pages can act as your company’s digital magnet to get more traffic since it’s simpler to optimize. You can also bait the reader in several other ways by showcasing related cornerstone content.
Looks matter – UX seals the deal
Cornerstone content isn’t the village fair. It’s not a smorgasbord of information that presents itself as a maze to the readers. Hence, great user experiences can be a ‘make or break’ moment for your landing page. Unless your cornerstone page has enough visual pizzazz – along with decluttered access to information, it wouldn’t matter how great the content might be.
You would have lost the reader a mere seconds after they visit the page.
If looks could kill interest, a cornerstone page is a suitable example of it.
Make it social
Your cornerstone page could use a boost from your social media channels. That’s why it’s essential to add social share buttons in every content piece so that it encourages the reader can share it with their preferred networks.
Post them in your brand’s social channels too; that way, you increase the odds of your cornerstone content getting as many pairs of eyes as possible.
For instance, a scrolling sidebar – when tastefully done – could egg the reader into sharing the cornerstone content when it impacts them the most.
What cornerstone content can do for your brand
- Improve brand value and enhance brand identity
- Organically attract web traffic that can be nurtured as leads
- Accelerate your marketing and sales funnel-building activities
- Create a natural linking ecosystem to strengthen the overall SEO strategy
- Give credibility to your brand voice as a thought leader
- Make your brand seem more human, positive, and reaffirming
Now, let’s look at a few great brands who have killed it, with cornerstone content on their website.
Examples of successful cornerstone content
Every marketer and their mother already know the immense value that HubSpot’s website has created for thousands of users worldwide. And this has nothing to do with their product. While they’re doing pretty darn well in that department too, HubSpot has been the king of cornerstone content when it comes to all things marketing.
How can you be sure?
Look for “Inbound marketing” on Google and see what shows up as the first link.
It takes you to a cornerstone page that acts as a single source of truth for inbound marketing. Here’s a list of sections on this webpage.
- Definition (with an option to sign-up for a free course)
- What Is the Inbound Methodology?
- What Is the Flywheel? (HubSpot’s unique business model)
- Inbound Marketing Strategies
- Using the Inbound Methodology in Marketing
- Use Inbound Marketing to Grow Better
- Another sign-up option for a free course by HubSpot
Sounds in-depth, right? Well, they don’t stop there. The cornerstone page on their website also has enough internal linking that take the reader to other places where they can find relevant content about inbound marketing. And they hyperlink their tools like HubSpot Conversations and HubSpot Connect to provide more inbound marketing value to their readers.
Now, try searching “SEO” on Google. Chances are you’re looking at Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO. How about that for SEO?
Moz’s cornerstone landing page on their website takes the top spot because of the sheer depth of the cornerstone content. Their eight-chapter-long magnum opus on SEO covers everything that you, as a reader, ought to know to become better at search engine marketing.
Here’s the glossary of chapters on Moz’s cornerstone page.
- Chapter 1: SEO 101
- Chapter 2: How Search Engines Work: Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking
- Chapter 3: Keyword Research
- Chapter 4: On-Page SEO
- Chapter 5: Technical SEO
- Chapter 6: Link Building & Establishing Authority
- Chapter 7: Measuring & Tracking SEO Success
- Chapter 8: SEO Glossary
In addition, they provide internal linking to their website’s humongous Learning Center and other articles that cover other facets of SEO. And they offer productive tools for you to know more about your brand’s SEO strength.
A few years ago, it would have been a wonder if every marketer you knew had listened to podcasts. These days, it would be a miracle if any of them didn’t. Enter Polymash, a podcast production expert, who created the ultimate guide to podcast marketing called “How to Promote Your Podcast – Top Strategies, Tactics, and Mistakes.”
Here are some of the content items on this page on their website:
- The Impact of Covid-19 on Podcast Marketing
- Reaching Your Target Audience
- Basic Podcast Promotion Tactics
- Submitting Your Shows To Podcast Directories
- Podcast Guesting On Other Podcasts
- Using Paid Ad Strategies
- Make It Easy As Pie To Share Your Episodes
- Contests and Promotions To Gather Apple Podcast Reviews
- Leverage Email Subscribers With Social Media Share Gates
- 5 Mistakes to AVOID when promoting your podcast
Furthermore, using internal linking – Polysmash also provides the 2020 Podcasting Resources Guide on their website, which contains many more details on launching and promoting a successful podcast.
Look for “brand awareness” in Google, and you may not see Typeform’s website in the top five search results. But not every cornerstone content’s purpose of outdoing Wikipedia or more prominent names. Typeform certainly has done a great job, considering that they appear on page one – which is an impressive feat in itself. But even if they appeared on subsequent results pages, it would still create a buzz among their readers – given the excellent content coverage and undeniable value this webpage offers.
Here’s what it entails:
- How to track
- How to kick-start
- How to measure
- Parting words
Under each category, Typeform drills down on the topic and uses conversational language to educate the reader. Their internal linking structure makes sure there are enough listicles and bullet points to simplify the reading experience without losing out on the depth of coverage on the subject.
The Atlantic is a popular US-based magazine that covers news, politics, culture, technology, and health. A few years ago, their Population Healthier page became the talk of the digital town for those in the healthcare industry. Since their intention was to provide an in-depth look at healthcare in the United States of America, they start with history before moving on to many interesting parts of a citizen’s healthcare journey.
The landing page on their website is divided into these sections:
- Culture Wars: Health Care Edition
- Coming to America Can Be Bad for Your Health
- Building a Virtuous Circle of Care
- A Marriage of Medicine and Public Health
- Helping Patients Help Themselves
- The Beauty of Shared Risk
- Population Healthier
One of the best parts of The Atlantic’s Population Healthier content-rich landing page is the creativity behind the web design. Despite having gone live in 2016, they are still one of the best-looking webpages around!
Remember that when you create cornerstone content, you are taking a leap of faith. But it’s the type of faith that is backed by all the keywords you want and competitor analysis. And with a good deal of internal linking, you’re all set to fire up the cornerstone content on your website.
After that, you have to leave it up to the readers because whether you like it or not – they will let you know!
The good thing is that creating cornerstone articles can pay rich dividends when done right. But doing it right isn’t a one-off activity or a timely website update. It is absolutely crucial if you want your cornerstone articles to rank in places that could mean business.
So, before you scamper to publish your first cornerstone article, make sure that there’s a long-term plan in place. Plus, give yourself enough room for flexibility to adapt as you learn more about the sort of content your readers want to consume.